Chernobyl paradise: man more deadly to wildlife than nuclear blast
New research has found that animal populations in the Chernobyl exclusion zone have unexpectedly soared, 30 years after the world's worst nuclear accident.
Land surrounding Chernobyl - which was evacuated after the catastrophic 1986 nuclear accident - is now teeming with elk, deer and wolves.
About 116,000 people were evacuated from a 1,600sq mile zone around Chernobyl, on the border of Ukraine and Belarus, after the nuclear power plant there exploded.
An exclusion zone remains closed to human habitation, and researchers believe the lack of humans has led to a thriving populations of wild mammals - despite the high radiation levels.
The report, published in Current Biology, used helicopter surveys of animal tracks in fresh snow to trace the population. They found that rarer species. including European lynx which were previously absent, have returned to the area.
They also documented a European brown bear in the exclusion zone - a species not believed to have been seen in the area for nearly a century.
Other large species, including wild boar, roe deer and fox, thrive while the wolf population is several times higher than in comparable, non-contaminated reserves.
"In purely environmental terms, if you take the terrible things that happened to the human population out of the equation, as far as we can see at this stage, the accident hasn't done serious environmental damage," said Prof Jim Smith of Portsmouth University, one of the study's authors. He added: "We're not saying radiation is good for animals, but human habitation and exploitation of the landscape is worse." (©Daily Telegraph, London)